22 Jun

Joan Ganz Cooney Center Fellow – Sesame Workshop

photo

Me with my pal, Cookie Monster and a cookie they use for Sesame Street.

“Uno dos tres quatro cinco seis seite ocho nueve diez.”

I learned how to count in Spanish when I was two years old through Sesame Street. I can’t remember a lot, but I can proudly recite one to ten in Spanish.

I also learned how to count in English (the “Pinball Count” song), do math with the Count, and find confidence to sing the Rubber Ducky Song.

I never thought about how these silly little lessons in counting, math, and singing would still capture my imagination. Even at the ripe old age of 34, I find myself excited through Sesame Street. And I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way.

I don’t know if I have any evidence for this, but I do think that my time with Sesame Street as a child really paved the way for how I love learning and how much I want others to learn. Watching characters and adults get so excited about learning really made me want to learn, even if it was something as silly as watching some crazy blue monster go after his cookie fix (my favorite character by the way).

Today, on my bus ride up to Interaction Design and Children 2013, I accepted an offer from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center to be their 2013 – 2014 Fellow. It was both a super easy no brainer decision and one of the most incredibly hard decisions I’ve had to make. How can this be? Can a decision be super easy and incredibly hard at the same time? By the way, Sesame Street does teach decision making practices.

Well, for the most part, I think you can tell why the decision is incredibly easy. I’m going to be working with some amazing people who have made an incredible impact in what we know about how children learn through digital media. The Cooney Center focuses on working at the intersection with supportive partners in research, industry, and non-profits. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to conduct some research on the intersection between joint media engagement and science learning at home. As a researcher in human-computer interaction, learning sciences, and science education, I’m ecstatic at what lies ahead. Plus, the walls at Sesame Street are litered with chalk art of all my favorite characters. Who doesn’t want to be greeted by Big Bird daily? It’s also nice to have a reason to get your dissertation done ASAP.

So why would this decision be tough then? Well, Sarah (my wife) is “lending” me out to the lovely city of NYC for a year until we can figure out what to do. I want everyone in this whole wide world to know that NONE of my research gets done without her. If I could put her face on every Powerpoint presentation I do at a conference, I would put it on and yell out how fantastic she is for being so patient and supportive.

sarah

So while I’m very much a pro-“take care of your family and friends” kinda guy, it is tough to have to be gone for periods at a time. I’m going to try to do the whole run back and forth on the weekends life between DC and NYC. But you know, life gets always complicated too.

If you are reading this blog, I hope that you can send prayers and good vibes to Sarah while I’m gone for a bit. Maybe give her a call, send her a lovely email, take her out to dinner, all the things that will help ease the time that I’m gone. Oh yeah, she loves shopping!

Another reason this decision was hard is that I’m going to miss seeing the people at the University of Maryland on regular basis. Truth be told, I didn’t mind spending another year with the most awesome group of children and adult researchers (Kidsteam) and writing up a storm with my totally rock star adviser, Allison Druin. I love the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and all the folks in the Science Education at the University of Maryland.

Going to Sesame Workshop for a year feels right, given that Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets is our most famous alumni.

In the end, while I’ve learned a ton about knowledge, theories, and design methods from some really super smart people, everything I’ve learned in graduate school has been about how important relationships are.

Any success I’ve had is summarized in this quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (I promise not to mess up anyone’s hair while standing on their shoulders.)

For whatever reason, I always seem to land at the right place and the right time. I used to think like Bilbo Baggins when he said to Gandalf, “We are plain quiet folk, and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.”  

However, Bilbo did over come his fear of adventure and the unknown. So here’s hoping my new adventure starts off well. It is my prayer that wherever I go, even if it is for a brief time, I can be a blessing and a support to all the people around me. Everything is going to be amazing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready to go out my door, step onto the road, and finding out where I will be swept off to.